By C J Johnson. Hunters Hill Theatre Company. Directed by Maggie Scott. Club Ryde. 17 March – 2 April, 2023
Reviewed : March 17, 2023 *
Oh. My. Dog! (or O.M.D.) Hunters Hill Theatre have “Let the Dogs Out” onto the stage at Club Ryde and they are doing their doggie best to tell their doggie tales!
All the dog stories you have heard – or told – have been compiled by playwright CJ Jonson in a series of ‘doggie diaries’ re-told by hounds of various breed, gender, size, age … and social class. From an impatient Rottweiler to an aging Labrador, a rabbit-chasing Greyhound to a peppy little Chihuahua … their stories are told by a cast of four actors who take on the different attributes and voices of fifteen very different canine characters.
The simple set, projections and lighting, designed by Wayne Chee give director Maggie Scott’s canine cast the space to strut, cavort, chase and cajole. Each is identified and introduced by their names projected on to a backyard paling fence – the bane of Borys, the aforesaid Rottweiler – and a grab of a dog-appropriate pop songs compiled by musical director Peter Tucker.
Anthony Slaven, Kirit Chaudhary, Ross Alexander and Brooke Davidson ‘collar-up’ to present these sometimes cute, sometimes funny, sometimes sad dog stories – many based on or inspired by true tales. All dressed in basic black, apart from the obligatory collar and one or two suggestive garments – a walkie-talkie carried by Sherlock the airport sniffer Beagle; a gold chain and a dollar sign for Scarface the American Pit Bull Terrier – the actors introduce their characters with a jaunty walk, a mangy scratch, a proud swagger, a sassy sashay … or a raucous bark.
It would be impossible to describe how each is created by the actor involved. And it would spoil the work they have done with Scott to bring their doggie selves to life. Suffice to say that it’s not just the words and ‘doggie voices’ but the expressions and movements and gestures that make the ‘dogginess’ of the characters believable.
Slaven’s Jack Russell, for instance, is seldom still on the stage. He runs, wriggles, somersaults, jumps, rolls and begs for food or a tummy scratch. Davidson’s Toy Poodle Polly executes a graceful ballet, and exits twitching her behind! Blackie, the mongrel, played by Alexander, lolls indulgently in his dusty space as he describes the mange that irritates him and the big bone he and his mate Cobber (Chaudhary) have buried for another day.
There are countless dog stories Johnson could have included – but those he has told cover pet dogs, working dogs, guard dogs, neglected dogs … even a wild Australian dog. And Maggie Scott’s hard-working cast portray them inventively.
* Opening Night